Friday Oct. 22, 2010
Uh oh…Hubby and I are both starting to feel ill. His tummy is bugging him and I have body aches. I took a nap this morning, and that helped a little. We had lunch here - more rice, meat, and greens. Pastor Peter came to have a meeting with group 2. He said that things with one of the Congolese offices were getting difficult. Or as he said repeatedly, “Very complicated.” He had us all totally freaked out. Turned out they just needed $20 from us to process our paperwork. NO big deal. Whew.
Mama Grace visited today. I wasn’t sure how the kids would do with her. They really couldn’t have cared less. They looked at her, looked at me. Looked at her, looked at me. We did find out that they called them Benedicte and Moise. Benedicte was the name they called Lauren in the orphanage, but I have no idea where Moise came from. In the little French I could understand, I got from Mama Grace that Lauren is happy and Blake cries.
We had just sat down with Barb to read through David’s journal and James got back and said the driver was available and we could go to Blake and Lauren’s old orphanage. We scrambled around to get ready to go. Hubby’s tummy kicked into yucky drive, but thankfully we were still able to go. Barb, bless her heart, kept both babies for us so we didn’t have to take them out in the heat.
It was a long, dirty drive there. I’ve been here a week and a half and it is still amazing to me how many people there are everywhere! People are selling anything and everything…even individual packets of Kleenexes. There’s dirt everywhere. It even feels dirty as you’re driving – you can feel it in your lungs, eyes, etc.
As we were just about there, traffic got insane. We needed to turn left to get to the orphanage, but there was a car blocking the road we needed to turn onto. We just did a five point turn around to get over there. We ended up perpendicular across the road and had traffic stopped in every possible direction. It’s not just traffic, though, it’s all the people loitering around and walking in the streets. It got ugly quickly. The guy blocking our road got out of his car and came over to yell at us. Our driver and James were yelling back at him. People all around our car were yelling. We just sat in our car with our hearts pounding, making sure not to make eye contact with anyone. A traffic cop came and did absolutely nothing. One of the guys in our group said what we were all thinking…”It’s okay, we don’t have to go to the orphanage. We can just go back.” Eventually, the guy blocking our road agreed to move and we passed on through. Oh my word, that was scary. Come to find out, the orphanage is only about a block away from all of this.
We pulled up to a much smaller building than I was expecting. There were a couple of kids looking out an upstairs window. I waved and smiled and they did back to me. Soon there were more kids looking out at us. We got out of the Jeep, stepped over the open sewer, and walked through the doors to a very run down concrete building.
My journal entry for the day stopped there. The visit that day was incredibly hard. I wanted to just break down then and there. NO CHILD SHOULD HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THAT. You wouldn’t leave your pet there for ten minutes, yet around 100 children call that place home.
I somehow managed to hold it together, put a smile on my face, and spend our visit loving the children. We passed out some toys, and shared lots of hugs. Their faces lit up when we showed them the things we brought for them. They also loved having their picture taken and getting to see themselves on our cameras. Several children asked me, though, if I had food with me. Balloons, beach balls, and toy frogs bring some joy, but only go so far.
We toured the building and were heartbroken to see the living conditions. No indoor plumbing, so no bathrooms. A kitchen with one pot of rice cooking. That’s all there was…no extra food anywhere. One room for the boys. One room for the girls. One other larger open room that evidently serves as dining room, play room, and sleeping room for the dozens of children that there wasn’t room for in the bunk rooms. There were two workers. Two. For that many children. No wonder our call about Lauren came at 3:00 in the morning. In my sleepy fog, I just remember hearing Diana say, “A baby girl was just brought to ____ orphanage. Can you take her?” Children die here all the time and babies don’t have much chance of survival. I can now see why.
It was just so hard for me to process the reality of these children’s lives and futures. It still is. I still see the hopelessness in their faces. I still long to make life right and fair for them. I still don’t understand why. This side of heaven, I probably never will.
I can’t forget them, though. I confess…sometimes I get all cozy and comfortable in my life here. It’s not fun to think about the injustice, pain, and poverty there. But I can’t forget. I can’t. I must remember. I have to keep them in my prayers. I have to raise awareness and support for them. I can’t ever forget, because the day that I forget the things I saw…well, I just don’t want to go there.
I took some pictures that day. I’ll post them here, but I just feel like they don’t even begin to capture the true environment there.
(I feel like I should note that I removed one of the pictures of a large group of kids. I realized that it showed a toddler boy with no pants and no diaper, only a shirt. Keep in mind that no diaper = mess on child and mess on floor. The same floor they’re all sitting on now. The same floor they eat on, sleep on, and spend most of their day on…usually barefooted, no less.)
This is the one picture we have of the streets of Kinshasa. Because it is illegal to take pictures in public, we could only take this from the safety of the orphanage. This is a small side street and yet here are still lots of people milling about. The blue and yellow vans are the taxis that I mentioned.
As I write this entry one year later, tears flow from my eyes. I just wonder if these children are even still alive. It’s just heartbreaking. Simply heartbreaking.